The provincial NDP may be joining the chorus of artists who are condemning the federal government for imposing a charge on out-of-country bands who play in Canadian bars and restaurants.
Of the hundreds of resolutions during the party’s annual general meeting in Winnipeg this weekend, the “threat to music industry” resolution, put forward by both Brandon NDP associations and two others, was passed along to a party committee to mull.
Many performing artists are subject to a $275 fee after major changes to the country’s temporary foreign worker program by the Harper government went into effect last year.
A $150 processing fee for work permits is also paid out — both charges are applied to each member of a band and any crew members flanking musicians across the Canadian border.
Musicians have always been subject to a federal labour market opinion (LMO) and work permits, but the costs have soared.
Exceptions are handed out to some artists, including those who perform in music festivals or those on multi-city concert-venue tours. So, bands that play at the Keystone Centre, or the Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival for example, aren’t subject to the charge.
But if a performer of a band from outside the country plays at a bar, it could cost the band thousands of dollars to serenade Brandonites under the federal rules.
Grant Paley, senior agent with Winnipeg’s Paquin Entertainment Agency, said the new charges ultimately hurt bars that host up-and-coming performers.
“It’s a tax that really affects the most grassroots part of our industry, which are the people that host developing groups,” he told the Sun.
“The bottom line is international acts can draw more people and put more people in the room. It’s hurting small businesses because, as an agent, I’m not going to book you (in bars or restaurants) because we want to avoid that LMO application.”
The industry was blindsided by the change back in August shortly after the TFW changes and has since gained 141,000 signatures on an online petition to scrap the change.
“Essentially, our industry has been lumped in with a bunch of other ones,” Paley said.
While Brandon isn’t on most musicians’ radar when it comes to booking gigs, the new rules don’t help the city’s music scene and Heidi Howarth, owner of Trails West Inn and The 40, said it’s not going to get any easier.
“It’s nasty and it’s ridiculous, it’s not good,” she said.
“It’s a hard market, there’s not a good livelihood for seven days a week anymore for live musicians and of course it hurts the ones who are trying to support them by bringing them to the bar,” she said. “What about the small dogs? I don’t think it was thought through ... the government doesn’t understand.”
The NDP resolution claims the levy is an attack on Canada’s music scene and small businesses.
“These new fees will make booking a non-Canadian act or band a money-losing venture for small and medium-sized venues,” the resolution reads.
The government defended the TFW changes — including its effects on foreign musicians — by saying Canadians shouldn’t shoulder the cost of bringing in foreign labour, according to the Canadian Press.